Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte-infected erythrocytes are characterized by their ability to sequester in the microvasculature of various organs, primarily the spleen and bone marrow. This phenomenon is thought to play a critical role in the development and survival of the sexual stages. Little is known, however, about ligands on the gametocyte-infected erythrocyte. Infection of erythrocytes with mature asexual stages of P. falciparum (trophozoites and schizonts) has been shown to induce modification of the erythrocyte anion transporter, band 3, and this has been linked to the acquisition of an adherent phenotype. Here, we demonstrate for the first time that immature gametocyte-infected erythrocytes also express modified band 3. In vitro binding assays demonstrate that gametocyte-infected erythrocytes of the 3D7 strain utilize this surface receptor for adhesion to C32 amelanotic melanoma cells via the host cell receptor CD36 (platelet glycoprotein IIIb). Adhesion of gametocyte-infected erythrocytes to CD36-transfected CHO cells is also dependent on modified band 3. However, modified band 3 does not mediate adhesion of gametocyte-infected erythrocytes to intercellular adhesion molecule 1, a second host receptor for gametocytes expressed on C32 cells
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